by Marilyn Crozier
As I glanced back at the piles of donated clothing, stuffed and heaped up in the back of our SUV, I tried to remember the little refugee boy’s name. Most of refugees we know are from the Congo, and they speak Swahili. When I remembered his name, Emari, I took mental note, as his name was not on the list.
My husband and I had spent weeks in gathering, sorting, and compiling clothing for our local refugees, which gave me feelings of satisfaction. Yet, as hard as I tried to match the clothes for each refugee, I still had feelings of apprehension. Did I get it right? Would the clothes fit? Would they like them?
I pictured the widow with her seven children. It delighted me to think of the beautiful girls’ dresses that had been donated and how they would look on each girl. I thought of the warm coats and jackets, knowing that the refugees from Africa had never experienced cold weather. I thought of the shoes, stylish boots, and lovely scarves to warm and lift their spirits. I hoped the clothing would be received with the spirit of love and caring as intended.
As we arrived at the first apartment, which had bars on the windows and was obviously run down, I asked for the four-year-old boy, Emari. The mother received us with a welcoming smile, as she knew us from previous visits. As Emari came forward, I noticed that he had a cleft palate. He previously had surgery, but it had not healed completely. As I pulled out a red and blue striped shirt from a large bag of clothes, the mother enthusiastically pulled it over his head. It fit and looked great.
As I started pulling more clothes out and holding them up to him, relatives of the refugees came over, crowding into their small living room. A three-year-old boy, who had fallen asleep in my husband’s arms at a previous visit, was also hoping for something from the bag. So I pulled out some camouflage pajamas. He immediately started taking off his clothes, wanting me to dress him in the pajamas, which I did with a smile. His mother started laughing with delight. The way he held up his arms was so cute.
We also brought boxes of shoes. A mentally disabled man in his twenties understood what to do and started going through the boxes to see what he could find. He was able to find the coolest athletic shoes, which fit perfectly. He was so happy that he went around showing his family and the neighbors his awesome new shoes. It was a very tender moment, but I knew I had to hold it together to stay on task.
Another day, when we were preparing to take clothes to the refugees, it was very hot. I felt prompted by the Spirit that I should take all of the coats. I tried to dismiss the feeling because it was hot, but the feeling was so strong, that I included all of the coats. The next day when we traveled to see the refugees, a chilly rain started falling upon us. Some of the refugees came out to our car to meet us. They were visibly cold, and unable to communicate with us. We started pulling out several coats. One small woman from the Congo, took a soft, white coat and gratefully put it on. She knew nothing about zippers and needed help. We gave her a blue and white striped knit hat, and she smiled happily as she put it on her head. A very tall, thin, man, who had been in a refugee camp for over twenty years, as most of this group of refugees had been, took coats for himself and his sons. Everyone looked warmer and happier that day, and I was grateful that I had followed the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
As the weather became even colder, we received coats from a school’s lost-and-found. As we took the coats to the apartment complex, two young girls came out to the parking lot to meet us. Although it was cold, the four-year-old was wearing a sleeveless dress, and the eight-year-old was wearing a much-too-big boy’s coat. As I started thinking we needed to get the younger girl back into her apartment to get warm, instead, I went to my trunk and pulled out a bright pink coat, just for her. I wrapped the coat around her shoulders, pulling the hood up, and zipping her in. We then gave the older sister a classy brown and pink coat, which was a perfect fit. Our friend arrived at the parking lot and bundled up the girls with hats and scarves. They looked so warm and cozy on a wintery day.
The joy that we have felt in serving the refugees is more than about clothing. Our lives have been enlarged and blessed, as we have learned about the tremendous trials the refugees have been through. We appreciate those who have donated. We have developed friendships, created beauty, and developed a higher capacity to love. Most importantly, we have been blessed with opportunities to meet, serve, and sacrifice for others. Did not the Christ sacrifice Himself for us? We know that when we are in the service of God’s children, we are only in the service of our God.
Marilyn Crozier has served in many leadership callings in her church, including women’s groups, youth, and children. She is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, and has worked as a social worker and community support specialist. She has been clothing refugees in the Albuquerque area with her husband for the past year. She and her husband have 6 grown children, and 16 grandchildren.
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